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Mattias Sellden and Thaddeus Wolfe at Friedman Benda

Courtesy of Friedman Benda, Mattias Sellden, Thaddeus Wolfe. Photography by Daniel Kukla.

Mattias Sellden and Thaddeus Wolfe

Friedman Benda

July 14 through August 12, 2022


Now in his mid-thirties, Swedish sculptor Mattias Sellden studied for his BA and MA in Stockholm. He works with wood; his art can appear abstract or can serve as furniture. His American colleague in the show, Thaddeus Wolfe, who lives in Brooklyn and is in his early forties,  makes intricate glass works, abstract in nature, that function as tabletop art. Both artists work in the intersection between art and design, a special interest of the gallery. Sellden’s work tends to be elegantly direct, free of intricacies and often organically formed, while Wolfe’s art is variously colored and complicated in its interlocking forms. Their work does not bear close comparison, but they both occupy a place in which their creativity moves across the boundaries of three-dimensional art, so that their efforts can be characterized as transformative of their chosen vocation, addressing relations between fine art and patterning.

Mattias Sellden, Sunset Giraffe, 2021. Curly Birch, Birch, varnish, pigment, 50.5 x 23.5 x 17.75 inches. Courtesy of Friedman Benda, Mattias Sellden.

Sellden’s sculptures, regularly  colored with varnish and pigment, are made with joined pieces of wood (most often curly birch). Their forms indicate the artist’s fondness for furniture, made clearer by the title’s references. For example, his Red Chair  (2021) is indeed visibly a chair, with a tall, narrow back that extends to the floor, a seat that widens as it moves away from the back, and two front legs with rough edges. Its color is a coppery red, and while it clearly can be sat on, Red Chair also presents itself as a beautiful abstraction. Spinal Spiral (2021), just over fifty inches tall, and also made of varnished and pigmented curly birch, consists of a rising, narrow thickness of wood, with five more slats extending outward, at regular intervals from the central column.  The pole, with its extensions, looks a lot like a spine with ribs; this form sits on a bench pedestal. Finally, the work Sunset Giraffe (2021) actually looks like a giraffe, with a short, horizontal piece of wood, linked to the seat of the sculpture, serving as a head. There is a single, curved front leg, and two straight legs in the back. 

Wolfe’s art is most often meant to be displayed on a flat surface of middling height. His art is best described as nonobjective, although sometimes it can feel like visionary architecture or a monument to the future. In one work from 2022 (all the pieces are untitled), made of glass and bronze, the structure takes the form of a 20-inch-tall cross, some 9 inches wide (the bottom support of the cross supporting the work is shaped like an arch). Variously colored blue and plum, the center and one side have openings, through which one can see the wall beyond. It is closer than Sellden’s work to design, but that does not mean its intentions cannot be seen as sculptural. Another work from 2021 offers a two-piece construction: on top an orange cube exists, rather like a packing crate, with four circular openings on the side that would likely face people, but completely open in the back. The sky blue column supporting the upper form is made up of many small parts–the components are formally idiosyncratic and appear much like a pile of diminutive, eccentric shapes.

Thaddeus Wolfe, Untitled, 2022. Glass, 29.25 x 16.25 x 10.5 inches. Courtesy of Friedman Benda, Thaddeus Wolfe. 

Both Sellden and Wolfe work in the interstices of artistic and (at least somewhat) practical form. This makes their work, Sellden’s especially, a hybrid both beautiful and useful. Wolfe’s glass constructions ask viewers to address the use of the overall shape of the object, which is not oriented toward design so much as it is driven to find an existence fully independent of categories. Craft is important to both artists. There is a gray area in which Sellden’s and Wolfe’s art exists, demanding creative insight on the part of those seeing the show. While their work is different, this difference adds to the creative intricacies of what we see. Both Sellden and Wolfe touch upon craft without losing their fine art orientation. In such a show, the artists’ motivations, not necessarily transparent, become a vehicle for imagination. WM 

Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is a writer in New York who has written for Artcritical, Artery and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications. 


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